Welcome back to another installment of "what I learned this week", where I try to come up with something new to talk about each week, and pawn it off as something I just figured out!
Our last run was combat day. A 5 hour game where the players infiltrated the mansion of a Yakuza underboss, and well... basically exacted murderous revenge for the death of a friend. Doing an entire game session in "combat time" as I call the initiative phases is quite a challenge. Now granted there were moments of quite where players ran up stairs and such without being shot at, but for the most part we were keeping close eyes on things like ammo, exact initiative ratings and the type of wounds the players had.
So I learned something great this game session. Dodging is huge. I mean REALLY huge. I mean UNBELIEVABLY huge. It pretty much makes my NPC's last twice as long if I want them too. Now naturally I was doing this before, but not to the extent to which I played with it tonight. Since the target number is 4 for most dodge tests, you can pretty much assume that 2 dice = one success when doing quick math.
Now comes the fun part. Shadowrun's damage codes are wonderfully staggered things. If you can reduce them to an odd number of successes they lose an entire damage level. Since you can decide how many dice to throw after the opponent rolls the skill dice for successes, you can do your math before hand. Here is an italic-y example just like in the big black book!
Seven, a street samurai is firing his Ares Predator at a Yakuza bodyguard. He rolls his 6 dice, plus 3 dice from his combat pool. His target has partial cover, and Seven has a Smartlink. He fires his weapon against a target number of 6, and rolls a 1,2,2,3,4,5,5,6 and a 6. That is 2 successes to hit the Yakuza. Knowing that this gives Seven a 9S damage code with his predator, and that Seven can fire a second time this round the Thug uses 3 dice from his combat pool, rolling a 2, 3 and a 4. This gives Seven 1 success, while the thug is still hit, he gets a good shot at reducing the damage down from 9M. The thug is wearing 5/3 worth of armor, and rolls his 8 (5 body + 3 dermal plating) against a target number of 4 to resist the damage. He scores 1,2,3,4,4,5,5 and 6, for a total of 5 successes, combined with his dodge success that gives him 4 net successes (after Seven's 2 successes are removed). He stages the damage down from M to none. If he had used 4 combat pool dice, he would have had a good chance at completely dodging the incoming attack.
So while the yakuza COULD have used up 6 combat pool dice to have a very good chance at dodging the attack completely, he was able to rely more heavily on his body dice. There are two reasons for this. Reason 1) Body dice are rolled every time a player attacks, regardless of a dodge or not, so they are never "used up", and Reason 2) The more dice you use, the more likely you are to roll "modul" or "average".
If the Thug had gotten lucky and rolled 3 4's on his dodge dice, he wouldn't have had to worry about rolling body at all. If he had rolled badly and gotten no successes he would still have staged the damage down to a light wound through body dice. He is more likely to roll "half successes" against his target number of 4 during the damage resistance phase than during the dodge phase.
Let us not also forget the importance of re-rolling failures with the Karma pool. Use the re-rolls on whatever gives you the highest degree of success. This depends heavily on the number of successes the attacker scored and the power of the weapon. Why bother dodging a Light damage code, when you can easily stage it down... save it for dodging that panther cannon with one success to hit you.
But it's more complex than even that! So in conclusion I leave you with these:
DOG'S LAWS OF DODGING
1. How many successes did the attacker get? Try to reduce the number of successes to an odd number (1,3 or 5) to reduce the "staging up" effect of multiple successes. While this isn't done until all dodge and body dice are calculated, when you only have a few dice to use, aiming for an odd number helps a lot. An attacker with 2 net successes does the same damage as an attacker with 3 net successes.
2. What is the power of the weapon after being modified by armor? If the number is 4 or less, assume that the body dice will get a 2 for 1 return. Can you easily stage the damage down to nothing with body dice? 4 body dice = 1 level of damage off. If so rely on it. If not, attempt to dodge the attack down to a level where you can.
3. What is the damage rating of the weapon? Don't bother dodging an L damage completely, but an S or D would be a situation to throw more dice into the dodge itself to mitigate your opponents successes. You can dodge a weapon down past its base damage level, but you can dodge it completely. This is why a 9S is so much better than a 9M weapon, and so much worse for the NPC's.
4. If it's the last attack of the Combat Turn and you have pool dice left, use them all. They are going to refresh after your done any way.
5. Never attempt to mitigate all the damage. Try to reduce it down to Light. This way you could get lucky, and take none, or unlucky and take M. It gives the combat a more "natural" feel, this way your players won't know you're doing math to prolong combat.
Now it's time to give you the golden rule. DON'T USE THIS MATH TO SLAUGHTER YOUR PLAYERS. Your best bet is to instead use this math to prolong combat an insane amount. Make those 3 thugs take forever to kill cus they keep running left and right and dodging behind things. I typically use no combat pool dice to attack with my NPC's, only to dodge. If I want a faster, more deadly fight, they use no pool dice for dodging, and all of it for attacking.
So how about a quiz to make sure you really grasp it all! The answers are way at the bottom. Your thugs relevant stats are: 5(8) body, 7 Combat Pool and is wearing a secure jacket (5/3).
Question 1: Seven the Samurai scores 4 Successes with his 9M pistol. How many combat pool do you use to dodge?
Question 2: Seven the Samurai has a cracked out roomsweeper that can burst fire. He scores 1 success with his 3 round 9S burst. How many combat pool do you use to dodge?
Question 3: Seven the Samurai just pulled out his walther palm pistol and scored an amazing 12 successes on your thug. How many combat pool do you use to dodge?
So till next time... god dammit I need some kind of witty catch phrase.
Answer 1: He is doing a total of 9D damage. Which your armor effectively brings down to 4D. Your 8 body dice will thusly reduce the damage rating 2 stages. You need to do the other 2 levels with dodge dice. 2 Dodge dice will usually give you one success, so you need 4 dice to allow you to stage the damage down to Light.
Answer 2: The burst has a damage rating of 11D and with your 8 body dice at a target number of 6 you might get lucky and get 2 successes. However he only has 1 success. If you use 3 dodge dice you will probably get at least one 5 (your target number is raised by 1 for dodging a burst), allowing you to take no damage at all. Hoping for successes on a target number of 6 isn't something you want to bank on.
Answer 3: The final damage code for the weapon is 7D, and scoring enough successes to keep your goon alive isn't likely.. Plus your player just got an amazing roll, let him have the fun of that personal successes, it's not every day someone dies to a walther palm pistol, and this will make a fun story he can tell the other runners.